“Thank you for taking my call,” Madison said.
“It’s my pleasure,” the Red Cross regional director said. “So this is for a story in your school newspaper?”
“That’s right,” Madison lied. “I’m looking at disaster preparedness in our city, and naturally the Red Cross is a big part of that.”
“We certainly are,” he said. “Did you know that we deal with sixty thousand disasters a year in this country?”
“What?” Madison was shocked. “How could there be that many? I can think of… maybe five in the last year.”
“If your house burns to the ground, that’s a disaster to you, right?” he asked.
“About ninety percent of the disasters we respond to are house fires. People think of us when there’s a massive disaster, but we’re there for all of them, big and small. Mostly we are volunteers who are ready to mobilize at any time,” he explained.
“Wow, that’s amazing. So where do you keep the stuff?” she asked.
“You know, the blankets and food and water. The stuff you need when you get to the disaster? Especially for a big disaster like when New Orleans flooded.”
“We have thirty-two National Disaster Field Supply Centers spread over the whole country,” he said.
“Are those warehouses? How big are they?”
“I love your attention to detail!” he said. “Yes, they are warehouses. Most of those are relatively small, but we have five regional centers, in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, and our newest one in Texas. All told we have more than one point two million square feet of warehouse space.”
“That’s all?” she asked.
He laughed. “You were supposed to be impressed by that big number! A million square feet doesn’t impress you?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just… a big warehouse is like five acres, right? Two hundred thousand square feet? So that number makes sense for five big warehouses. But it doesn’t seem like enough to cover the whole country.”
“We have a fleet of vehicles that can move the supplies to where they need to be. We are on-scene within a couple hours for most disasters, and we’re fully operational within a day for the large disasters. I’ll grant you that dealing with multiple disasters at the same time does stretch our capacity. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen all that often.”
“I see. Do you use a subcontractor to run those warehouses, or do you do that yourself?” she asked.
“We operate everything ourselves. That’s an interesting question, though. Sometimes we talk about whether outsourcing or using just-in-time inventory like big retailers use might be a way for us to lower our operational cost or increase our capacity. But for now, we feel most confident knowing we have everything we need on hand. Why do you ask?”
“I thought I read about a contractor who ran warehouses for you. A company called CLP—Consolidated Logistics Partners. Have you heard of them?” Madison’s heart was racing.
“I can’t say as I have. We do have some subcontractors, but I’m not aware of any for the warehouse operations. Hang on a second.”
Madison could hear typing noises, followed by some muffled talking. She waited.
“Yeah, I checked our vendor database and asked my office manager just to be sure. We have no record of that company. Do you know where you saw that? We certainly don’t want people claiming to work for us if they don’t!”
“I don’t have that handy, no,” Madison said. “I’ll check my notes after this call and drop your admin an email if I can find it.”
“I’d appreciate that. Do you have any more questions?” he asked.
“I think what I have now is really good,” Madison said.
“Most of what I told you is on our website,” he said. “But if you think of anything else or you need more details, I’m happy to answer any questions you might have. As you know, we operate mostly on donations, so if you could include our donation number from the website in your article, that would be a big help to us.”
“I definitely will. Thank you so much,” Madison said. “I think I have what I need, but I’ll let you know if anything else comes up.”
“Great. And if you find that CLP reference to us, we’d certainly appreciate knowing where that came from,” he said.
Madison thanked him again and ended the call. She texted Bryce, “I talked to the Red Cross.”
“Any?” he replied.
“CLP is full of it. The Red Cross runs their warehouses themselves.”
“Are you going to confront Mr. Black?”
“Not yet,” Madison texted. “I want to dig into CLP some more. Guess how many big warehouses the Red Cross has.”
“A few hundred?” he guessed.
“For the whole USA?”
“Yes. CLP has maybe 600 times as much warehouse space as the Red Cross.”
“Whoa” he replied
“That’s the hundred-billion-dollar question,” she wrote.